Working hard for what you want will pay off

The night of Oct. 31, 2012, I applied to two colleges: Wellesley College and Willamette University. On Dec. 11, 2012, Wellesley sent me a “yes,” confirming I’ll be their student next year.

The waiting for the “yes” was the hardest VERN UYETAKE - Elise Brown

When I pressed “send,” my application was completely out of my hands. I would have to wait a long six weeks for a response, during which there was nothing else I could do to guarantee my acceptance. I was unsettled, beginning to doubt myself. Should I do more? Could I?

As those thoughts persisted, the longest weeks of my life dragged on. Life felt repetitive, static. Classes didn’t fully engage me. News felt stale, even with elections unfolding. Debate tournaments brought some excitement, but they only lasted one day each, and even there, I waited.

As I waited, I worried about my future. I took comfort in my friends, but I worried they felt burdened by my venting. Feelings piled up, like the letters on my desk from other colleges asking me to apply. I’d remember that those letters meant I certainly would get into a great school, but the impatience would resume and I was worried all over again.

I listened to Woody Guthrie often, connecting to his songs about leaving the old behind to find a better future. He once sang, “It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.” I was certainly a worried woman; a worried song would ease my mind.

My mom concurred. I asked her what to do when you’re constantly unsure what to do. She said to find a hobby. I had plenty to take refuge in. I resolved to put my soul into speech and debate, writing and music. I could healthily bide my time, even if my anxiety lingered.

And then they came. Two acceptance letters.

I replied to one respectfully with “no, thank you.” I replied to another gleefully with an enrollment deposit. It’s official: This fall, I’ll begin studying political science at Wellesley.

I was wanted. It felt amazing.

I’ve worked hard for that feeling. In the process, I’ve worked to maintain a GPA, find supportive communities and excel in extra-curriculars. I’ve worked to discover who I am. At Wellesley, the work continues, but the person I am so far belongs there. I’m grateful that Wellesley agrees. I’m extremely grateful for all the people who have helped me belong there; my success is also theirs.

I’ve given constant thanks to my guidance counselor, Michelle Olson. Every time I do, she insists her role was limited and I did all the work. She suggested this month’s column should be about just that: Hard work can make your dreams come true.

So that is the moral of this story. No matter how worrying and unsettling the future may be, push toward the big picture. It’s daunting, but it’s attainable. Once you can’t control the big picture, just trust yourself. Do what you love. It pays off beautifully. Even if you fall short, the satisfaction of knowing your passion begets progress is stunning.

Now I have more waiting ahead before becoming a Wellesley woman. At least now I don’t need to worry about whether it’ll happen. I can relax in the joy of letting it happen. That’s the kind of joy we all deserve.

Elise Brown is a senior at West Linn High School.

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